FAQs on Genus Brochis
(Emerald Green) Cats
Related Articles: Callichthyid Catfishes, Summer loving: cats in the garden, kittens in
the kitchen by Neale Monks,
Callichthyids 1, Callichthyids 2,
FAQs on: Callichthyid
Reproduction, Catfish: Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease, Reproduction,
Greeting WetWebMedia Crew, I tried to feed my Corydoras and Brochis
<Oh! Just reading re this genus in the current Amazonas mag.>
school a small piece of banana. They immediately started feeding. I was
a little surprised to see that. I have noticed them feeding on
decomposing plants (Hydrocotyle umbellata) in the past but was unsure
about banana. Its seems like a healthy snack but was very messy.(I did a
water change after feeding) Thought somebody may want to know. Thanks
for the great site.
<Thanks for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Greeting WetWebMedia Crew, I tried to feed my Corydoras and Brochis
splendens school a small piece of banana. They immediately started
feeding. I was a little surprised to see that. I have noticed them
feeding on decomposing plants (Hydrocotyle umbellata) in the past but
was unsure about banana. Its seems like a healthy snack but was very
messy. (I did a water change after feeding) Thought somebody may want to
know. Thanks for the great site. Aloha Brandon
<Catfish will try all sorts of foods. I've been to a public aquarium
where they pretty much throw a fruit bowl into the big catfish tank and
let them graze over the week -- grapes, oranges, all sorts of fruit! Do
remember that South American catfish, like South American cichlids and
piranhas, will adapt their diet as the River Amazon water level goes up
and down across the year. In the dry season catfish and other Amazonian
fish will have to eat what they can find, sometimes small fish trapped
in pools, sometimes carrion, sometimes aquatic invertebrates. In the
rainy season they swim into the flooded forest and eat all sorts of
fruits and seeds as well as the abundant insects and insect larvae. In
other words, these fish are programmed to try all sorts of foods, and
the more variety, the better for them! Cheers, Neale.>
Sick Brochis 8/21/12
I have a Brochis splendens that is clearly not feeling well.
For the past 2 days, she remains at the bottom of the tank 50% of the
time inverted, and for the past day with a curvature in the spine.
<This is out of the blue? Review possible sources of poisoning. Copper,
formalin, chlorine, chloramine, etc. Because these are air-breathers,
think also about anything sprayed or otherwise present in the air --
paint fumes for example.>
She changes positions every 2-3 hours. On Sunday she looked as if
she was standing on her tail-I didn't think much of that as my Brochis
often configure themselves in odd positions.
There are 9 Brochis total in the tank with rainbows (15) and giant
danios (6) Oto's (7) and shrimp.
<Odd. Anything toxic to Corydoras and Brochis would surely affect
shrimps and Otocinclus too.>
All inhabitants are long term, tank is well established, planted, and
receives a minimum 50% weekly WC. Temp is 80 (higher than normal but it
<True, but unlike (most) Corydoras, Brochis tolerate warm water well.>
ammonia nitrite and nitrate are zero as I have moved to daily
Water changed to try to help her. I also have DIY CO2 disbursed via a
<Disconnect the CO2 for the time being. Extreme swings in pH through CO2
fertilisation can cause problems, though there's the no reason an
air-breather like Brochis should be more upset by this than a
non-air-breather like Danio spp. Anyway, with the CO2 switched off, this
is at least one thing that you can tick off from the list of
The plants will be fine. Mind you, I'm not a huge fan of DIY CO2 systems
at the best of times. CO2 is dangerous stuff, and without automatic
dosing, it's hard to be sure you're maintaining a steady pH and a
below-toxic CO2 concentration.>
I did clean one of my two filters on Saturday-other than that-nothing
has changed. Two photos are attached-any idea what this is or how
<For now, assuming poisoning. Do a BIG water change, 50%, and see what
happens. If this helps, then another 50% change tomorrow would be a good
idea. Also, install a very good quality chemical adsorbent to remove
potential toxins; at the least, carbon, but ideally Polyfilter or
If you can, get the water tested for copper and chlorine (most aquarium
shops that deal with marines should be able to do this for you). Cheers,
Re: Sick Brochis (RMF?)<<No need>> 8/22/12
Thanks for the advice.
I changed 50% of the water, d/c's the CO2 and am en-route to purchase a
chemical absorbent product.
I can't really wrap my head around the idea of an external poison-I have
well water, so chlorine isn't a factor, I have a breeding shrimp/fry
tank that receives the same water and none of my shrimp are dying.
I don't use chemicals to clean around my tank.
<I concur with your analysis; it is very odd. Diseases tend not to be
instantly incapacitating and don't tend to come out of the blue in this
way. Were there no signs at all of problems before? Disinterest in food?
Not schooling with the other Brochis? Laboured breathing? More frequent
gulps of air compared to the others?>
She has been swimming short distances, and it takes about 3 body lengths
to turn right side up, then usually stops and rests. I will
continue the WC regimen as directed and keep you posted should there be
<There probably wouldn't be any harm taking a broad antibiotic approach,
e.g., using Maracyn 1 and 2 together. At worst, it'll do nothing, but at
best it'll catch any bacterial infection of the internal organs without
harming the other fish or the filter.>
I greatly appreciate the speedy response and advice. Be well.
<And thanks for the kind words, Neale.>
Brochis/wild caught question, source,
Hope you are well. I recently bought 6 Brochis and my LFS said they
were bred in southeast Asia - I thought they weren't bred in
<Brochis splendens does seem to be farmed now; here in England,
it's often one of the cheaper Corydoras-type catfish!>
2 died after about 3-4 week without presenting any symptoms of illness
while in quarantine (remaining 4 are doing very well still in the QT
tank). Are random deaths indicative of being wild caught?
<Not really, no. Poor handling can be a problem with catfish, and
also starvation, but these apply equally to farmed and wild-caught
I see no disease and don't want to treat a phantom illness, but I
also don't want to put the 4 in QT in my main tank. I am a bit lost
here. I have 5 Brochis in my main tank (well over a year) that would
really like new friends but I don't want to screw this up (they are
bar-none my favorite species and are near-impossible to get so every
loss is really a tragedy). What are your thoughts?
<Hmm, I would quarantine the full six weeks, and then introduce them
to your display tank. Treating for worms (as per Discus) wouldn't
be a bad idea, but not essential and unlikely the cause of death in the
Battle for food
I have a 20g tank with 4 Swordtails and 4 Green Cory
Catfish. I'm feeding them micro wafers that float for a
bit and then sink, so the Swordtails knock the wafers down to the
catfish. In addition, I'm feeding the catfish Sera Vipachips that
sink to the bottom. Problem is, the Swordtails also really like the
Vipachips, and it ends up being a battle between the Swordtails and the
catfish -- of course, the Swordtails end up eating most of it. Can you
maybe suggest a way I can ensure that only the catfish get the
<Easy, this one. Feed the catfish at night! When the lights are out,
provide sufficient food for your Corydoras. Do this 3-4 times per week,
and you should find they're just fine. Corydoras are nocturnal by
nature, despite being day-active in aquaria, and happily feed at night.
And no, they won't hide away during the day just because
they're being fed at night. Do also remember to keep the tank quite
cool, 22-24 C is ideal for both Swordtails and Corydoras aeneus,
otherwise their metabolism will be much higher than it needs to be, and
that'll place extra demands on their diet as well as shortening
Leveling tank stand for 9g Bi-Ube, off-center tank
Greetings! Thank you for the rich website and detailed information.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
I have a handful of questions I hope you can assist with that I
couldn't find addressed on your site.
I have had a 9g Bi-Ube cylindrical acrylic tank set up for about six
months now, complete with a small school of black neon tetras (5) and a
couple of emerald Cory cats.
<I hate saying this, but this aquarium is not suitable for these
fish. In fact this aquarium is arguably not suitable for fish at all.
But Black Neons and Corydoras aren't at all suitable. They may live
for a while, but they won't be happy. Corydoras are schooling fish
and should be kept in groups of five or more. Both species ultimately
get quite big, and the Corydoras should reach about 7 cm or so, and
such fish will be far too big for such a small tank.>
The tank and the stand it rests upon are off-level 1/2"
back-to-front, likely due to my carpet (tack strip). Because the tank
is so small, and of acrylic construction, I've tolerated the level
discrepancy perhaps a little too long. This tank has never been level,
and it's high time I remedy this issue... I had a 75g AGA bowfront
fail for similar reasons before, and while a 9g tank failure would be
decidedly less dramatic, I refuse to be responsible for any further
livestock losses (sadly 40 plus fry perished with the aforementioned
tank failure). So, with the background out of the way, here are my
1) Can I get away with a partial water removal (say 50%) versus a total
tear down since the tank is so small? I hate to put my fish (or
myself!) through the trauma if I can avoid it.
<Ordinarily, yes, you'd have to near-empty a tank to safely move
it. You might get away with lowering the waterline 66% because of the
size and construction of this unit, but I can't recommend it, and
don't want to get
the blame when the thing starts leaking!>
2) Can I shim just the stand or do I really need to place a plywood
substrate? Again my indecision stems from the small tank size. If the
latter, the answer to #1 above becomes an obvious "yes!". If
plywood is needed, how much larger than the tank stand should it be? Is
2" on all sides adequate?
<Honestly, if this amount of sloping is just 1 cm or so, I
wouldn't lose any sleep on this at all, and I'd leave it be.
With that said, a tank this size isn't heavy, so shimmying the
stand with slips of wood should be fine.>
3) Is it safe to place the tank off-center on the stand? The stand is
rated for a 75g AGA tank, so the 9g Bi-Ube is peanuts by contrast, in
terms of weight. The tank has a 13" diameter footprint, while the
stand is 15" x 33"... Since it's probably relevant,
please note that the stand is composite material with three
load-bearing supports (sides & center). The front/back at least
don't appear to me to be load-bearing (doors on front and
half-panel composite for electrical access at the rear).
<It should be okay having the tank off-centre, but in this situation
we can't offer anything 100% certain; you really must check with
4) Finally, how important is Styrofoam with an acrylic tank? I
don't see any obvious gaps between tank and stand, but I
haven't performed the "sheet of paper" test I've read
so much about.
<Styrofoam sheets tend to be less important with acrylic tanks and
indeed modern glass tanks with plastic load-bearing trims around the
edges. My 180-litre Juwel aquarium actually came with a sheet of paper
stating NOT to
use Styrofoam. I know it isn't helpful, but again, you really
should check with the manufacturer. If the instructions say to use a
Styrofoam sheet, then use one.>
Thank you in advance for any advice!
Ps - I think I accidentally fired off a blank email to you all prior to
this one. My apologies!! I'm on a cell phone, and sometimes
generate unexpected results with an errant button-push.
<Didn't see anything!>
Cory Cats white balls on dorsal fin
I have a 55 gallon with four guppies, seven platys, eight black skirt
<Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, can be persistent fin nippers, and fin
nipping leads to open wounds, and open wounds become
a Pleco, and two emerald Cory cats.
<I assume you mean Brochis splendens. Why just two? These are social
animals; groups of five or more, please! Like Corydoras, Brochis are
totally different fish when kept correctly, and fish that are less
stressed are less likely to become sick. In a 55 gallon tank
there's no excuse for not adding a few more Brochis
My water conditions are 0 ammonia, 0 nitrate, 20ppm nitrate, 7 ph, and
a temperature of 78. I recently (about a week ago) just got done
fighting off Ich using heat treatment--I did not use salt in addition
to heat--and haven't had it recur since returning the temperature
to 78. I also perform 25% water changes weekly.
<By itself heat doesn't kill the Whitespot/Ick parasite, so
you're deluding yourself here. The point to raising the temperature
is that this speeds up the life cycle of the parasite, causing the
white cysts to open more quickly. That's essential because Ick
medications ONLY treat the free-living infective stages, not the white
cysts themselves. So, the parasite is probably still in there. Just
because you can't see it, doesn't mean the fish aren't
carrying a low level infection on their gills. Plus, the wounds created
by Ick can become sites of secondary infection.>
About two days ago I noticed that both of my emerald Cory cats had a
white tuff/ball looking thing on their dorsal fin where the fin meets
the body (on the side nearest to the tail). I thought at first it might
have been a fungal infection, but I found it odd that they both have it
on the exact same spot and in the exact same size. I didn't
recognize it on them before, however, I might have missed it. Ever
since Ich took over, I have been paranoid about inspecting the fish
each day, more than I did before. Is this most likely a fungal
infection or is this a normal part of their body?
<It's a disease of some sort. Likely Fungus or Finrot, though it
could be Ick if about the size of a salt grain.>
<Do read, understand the why fish get sick and how to treat them.
Paranoia is pointless if you don't prevent or medicate diseases
properly. Cheers, Neale.>
A continuing problem with sick dojo loach, and now my
emerald green Cory cat has the same illness 9/22/09
I am still struggling with the problem Neale responded to in
The latest news is one of my balloon belly mollies died last
week, the one that gave birth a few weeks earlier.
I noticed that she was stuck to the filter and assumed she was
dead, but when I unplugged it she swam away. Then shortly after I
noticed she was swimming oddly, a little crooked.
<Physical damage, to the fins at least, perhaps more serious.
Balloon Mollies are deformed right from the get-go, with a
crooked spine and deformed swim bladder. They swim poorly even in
the best of health, and Mollies generally are prone to poor
health in freshwater tanks. A deformed, sensitive species...? No
thanks -- I recommend against them.>
She would stay close to the bottom but swam up eagerly whenever
it was feeding time. She got stuck on the filter a couple more
times throughout a few days and then died. I wasn't sure this
odd swimming was due to the filter mis-hap or if she was sick and
weak before the first filter incident.
<Healthy fish don't get sucked into filters, so if you see
a dead fish in a filter, it was moribund/dead before it got
And four days ago my Cory cat (the only one) showed the same
signs of illness as my dojo loach - red around the gill area and
at the base of his fins. He was also swimming insanely and I saw
rapid gill movement.
<Interesting that these are both bottom feeders. I wonder if
there's something wrong with your substrate and/or water
circulation. If this was me, I'd replace the substrate (or at
least thoroughly clean in outside the tank, e.g., in a bucket
using a garden hose) and then check the filter was shifting water
along the bottom of the tank properly.>
I put him in the quarantine tank with the dojo loach and started
They have had four days of treatment now. The Cory cat developed
mouth rot too, just like the dojo did. And yesterday I noticed a
whitish lump on his underside. I'm going to try to attach a
picture at the bottom of this e-mail somehow (I have not been
successful ever at resizing pictures).
<Again, the mouth and the belly (and the whiskers, so check
those) are in contact with the substrate. A dirty substrate
promotes (though doesn't cause) bacterial infections by
producing the conditions those bacteria prefer. One reason I like
sand rather than gravel is that it's less likely to get
dirty, and also less likely to physically abrade sore or
sensitive tissues. The addition of Malayan Livebearing Snails to
tanks with a sandy substrate is a good way to keep the sand clean
and well oxygenated.>
I figured that since the dojo loach, although healed from mouth
rot, was still looking a little pinkish all this time, that this
bacterial infection was still lingering (or incurable and I
should pick up some clove oil soon as you had suggested in the
first place) and it couldn't hurt to do another treatment.
The hole in his head hasn't gotten any bigger and looks like
it is either just staying put or healing at a slow rate.
And here is all of the info about my tank:
(this is from my records from starting it up, figured I'd
give you all the info - sorry if it's way too much)
first set up February 28th 2009 - I tried to do a fishless cycle
and thought I was successful, though now I wonder.
on this set-up day I filled the tank, used Prime, poured some of
my established 10 gallon tank water into the new tank, added
purchased bacteria, added a tank decoration from the 10 gallon
Day 6, I tested the water
Day 7 added water softener pouch for 7 hours and tested:
GH 120 (test strips hard to read, but wasn't the solid 180
color it was on Day 6)
KH 120/180 (test strips hard to read)
<Why the water softener? Why are you lowering the pH?
Let's be clear: a pH of 7.5 is ideal for most aquarium fish.
Multiple reasons, but the important ones are [a] the filter
bacteria prefer a basic pH, and [b] hard, alkaline water is less
likely to experience pH variation than soft, acid water.
Unless you're breeding fish that specifically need soft
water, it's best to leave hard, alkaline water as it
Added the established 10 gallon tank filter, plus another tank
decoration (from the 10gallon tank)
added two of my zebra Danios
added more purchased bacteria
<The bacteria are in the system; adding more largely
pointless. I'd sooner add a big clump of floating plants such
as Indian Ferns. These carry lots of helpful bacteria on their
roots, so help cycle tanks, and more importantly, suck up ammonia
and nitrite as they grow.>
Day 8 tested water:
GH 120 ? (test strips hard to read)
KH 40 ? (test strips hard to read)
<Again, we have this dropping pH, likely because your
carbonate hardness (KH) is FAR TOO LOW for a freshwater
community. Remember, Mollies MUST have hard, basic water, at
least 15 degrees dH (~250 mg/l calcium carbonate equivalent), and
ideally much more. There are VERY few community fish that
actually demand soft water, and you certainly wouldn't keep
them with Mollies.
ammonia read > .25
<No surprise. When pH gets below 7, biological filters start
to work significantly less efficiently, and below pH 6, the
bacteria don't work at all.>
ammonia read .25 or less
Nitrate the test strip was faintly pink, but basically zero
did 8 gallon water change, added 55 mL bacteria
<Still got ammonia; the pH is low, the filter crashed, and
that's likely one key factor here.>
added three red Serpae tetras (from my 10 gallon tank)
<Why adding fish?>
Day 23 and Day 24
had water tested at store, tested fine. purchased 3 dwarf
gouramis/added to tank
<Wouldn't touch these fish with a bargepole, and in an
unstable tank, their lifespan isn't likely very high. Golden
rule: don't add fish while you're still trying to keep
added 55 mL bacteria
Nitrite and Nitrate both at 0
added 3 Rasbora tetras, changed Right filter
8 gallon water change
8 gallon water change
8 gallon water change, changed Left filter this is about where I
stopped recording. I tested during this time and everything was
at zero. I Figured the tank was cycled.
My tests today read:
ALK KH 180
Hardness GH 150
<Better. But still, let's get the pH to 7.5, if necessary
by adding suitable amounts of Rift Valley cichlid salt mix;
I'd say about 1/4th to 1/3rd the dose recommended for Rift
Valley tanks should be fine. Don't alter the pH directly;
just change the carbonate hardness, and the pH will follow, and
in a stable way.>
I use an AquaTech filter - I had made my own filter cartridges
for a few times, using the white fluffy filter material (it was
the only kind the pest store sold) and charcoal, using one of the
plastic pieces from inside a store-bought filter on the inside. I
stopped doing this in case this is why the fish are getting
I feed with:
TetraMin Tropical Tablets, "the rich mix for bottom
Omega One Natural Protein Formula shrimp pellets
Omega One Super Color Flakes (natural protein formula)
Tetra Min Tropical Flakes
I use Seachem Prime with every water change, adding it to the
buckets before pouring into the tank
temp 76-78 F
I currently have in there:
2 black neon tetras
3 cardinal tetras
1 balloon molly
all seem fine, except the Pleco goes a little pale in patches
once in a while, but this was happening from the beginning and I
thought it might be normal for them when they were resting (I had
never had one before).
<The patches are mucous, and often a reaction to water quality
I think in my original email to you (or it is in the Disease
I mentioned that there were to mollies (or platies, I can't
tell the difference) that I introduced a few weeks before the
Dojos got sick. One of them died about a week after, and the
other one died suddenly a week after that. When I scooped it out
of the tank I saw that it had a bright red circle about 4mms wide
on its side. This is what leads me to think that it was this fish
that introduced disease to my tank, but I'm obviously no
<Well, I am an expert, and I'll tell you if you keep
lowering the pH like this, any livebearers you add will die. End
of story. For optimal results, aim for moderately hard,
moderately basic conditions: pH 7.5, 10-20 degrees dH (that's
about 175 to 350 mg/l calcium carbonate equivalent). That will
keep livebearers happy, while remaining acceptable to a wide
range of community fish. Yes, Neons and Rasboras and the like
come from soft water habitats, but they don't share them with
Mollies or Platies! So you have to use your noodle a bit here,
and figure out which species are most sensitive to water
chemistry issues (livebearers) and act accordingly.>
The first dojo loach that died had those red spots, but smaller
and not as bright, all over his body when he died.
<Still a bad sign.>
At least the Cory cat's getting sick has given the dojo loach
some welcomed company in the quarantine tank. He did perk up to
see his old friend and they hang out together most of the time
Of course I would love to save the two sick fish, but I'm
even more concerned about the future of my main tank. There must
be something wrong with it, especially since my Cory cat is sick
with the same symptoms. Where do I go from here?
Any hope for the sick fish or is it time to let them go? the Cory
cat is still quite active, and the dojo loach isn't acting
like he is anywhere near death either.
<Likely can, will recover given good conditions and right
Thank you so much,
Pictures below - the dojo loach is looking good except for
pinkish hue around gills and back end of body. Tough to see in
the picture though.
You can see the hole in his head though - I hope it isn't a
It seems to be staying put.
<Nothing came through. Please be sure to attach ~500 kB images
to your e-mail. Images that are too big cause problems for
Re: a continuing problem with sick dojo loach, and now my emerald
green Cory cat has the same illness 09/24/09
Thank you for your reply - I have some questions and explanations
and have tried to make them easy for you to find by using lines
to separate my words from the original e-mail.
I wasn't able to get the resized pictures to attach to this
e-mail and hope that it is acceptable that I cut and pasted them
at the bottom.
<Nothing came through. Cutting and pasting images into e-mails
doesn't always work. Do use the "attach" button on
whatever your e-mail program is.>
I have sand substrate. It is children's play sand. I was told
by a fish store employee that it is great because it is a more
natural color and less expensive than the marketed kind for
<Provided the sand is [a] smooth and [b] chemically inert, you
can use whatever you want. Sand comes in two grades,
"sharp" and "smooth", and sharp sand will
damage your fish. As for the chemistry, the sand needs to be
lime-free. Personally, I use smooth silica sand from garden
centres as a 100% safe alternative. Play sand, pool filter sand,
etc. may be fine, but there are no guarantees. The play sand from
one shop may be different from another, so I can't give you
any assurances. If the sand feels smooth, that's good, and if
it doesn't react with acid (e.g., vinegar) that's good
After Googling and reading the same online, I went ahead with
this. I washed it thoroughly, in small quantities, by running
water and stirring it until the water was nearly clear. Was this
a mistake to use this kind of sand and do you still believe I
need to change it or wash it again?
<Provided the sand is safe to use for the reasons stated
above, cleaning it is more a visual thing. Most folks find that
the silt in bags of sand makes their tanks murky for a few days,
but nothing a water change and a good, strong filter won't
fix. Replace/clean the mechanical filter media after the first
week because that's where most of the silt ends up/>
and I am soooo uncomfortable with the idea of introducing snails
into my tank again, as I had way too many in my 10 gallon at one
point after one hitching a ride in with a fresh plant.
<Snails convert organic matter into baby snails. If you have
too many, then you have other problems.>
This is also why I am super hesitant to ever bring fresh plants
into my tank again.
<Non sequitur. There are plenty of ways to kill snails on
plants before you put them in your aquarium. Snail-killing
potions are sold in aquarium shops and work well as
I had "pond snails" I believe.
<Typically Physa and Planorbis spp.>
Are they the same as Malayan Livebearing Snails?
<No, these are Melanoides spp.>
I will introduce the snails if you really think I should
<I have Melanoides snails in all my tanks. I find the good
they do -- as substrate cleaners and aerators -- easily outweighs
their nuisance value.
While they do breed quickly, a combination of physical removal,
predators, and simply ignoring them works a treat. Clea helena,
the Assassin Snail, is a great snail population limiter.>=
Well, I freaked out that my 55 gallon tank had harder water than
my established 10 gallon tank and it was harder than the water
straight from the tap. This confused me and figured I should get
the water the same hardness as the established 10 gallon was. So
I was trying to soften it just a bit, not lower the pH. I had
heard so much about not being worried about or try changing the
pH that I didn't think it a big problem that the pH changed
(and figured it would level out with water changes). Lesson
Why adding fish? Because I thought that adding the three fish
(transferring from the established 10 gallon tank) would help the
cycle to continue at a safe rate. I was more paying attention to
the ammonia/nitrate/nitrite tests than the other areas.
<Ah, I see. Generally, so long as a tank has a few fish in
there, the cycling process will continue happily enough. Adding
extra fish is of marginal value, unless you plan to
*dramatically* increase the population of fish in there at some
point. For example, if you cycled with a couple of Guppies, and
then added an adult Oscar, that would probably be bad!>
I didn't realize I was trying to keep others alive at this
point...just thought I was helping the bacteria multiply at a
safe rate for the fish.
They did not last super long (and they were so darn territorial
with each other it was annoying to have them in there, too).
<Yes, many schooling fish stop being schooling fish when in
groups of less than six, and in some cases, they become outright
I am having trouble finding Rift Valley cichlid salt mix here.
One store sells "cichlid lake salt",
<That's the stuff!>
and she told me that all of their salts will adjust the pH, not
the carbonate hardness.
<She's wrong. By definition, these salts raise the pH
precisely because they're raising the carbonate hardness.
It's the carbonate hardness that creates the
"stuff" that makes the water basic. It's the
carbonate hardness that "mops up" the acidity.>
If I did more frequent water changes for a while, will that
<Up to a point, yes, the more water changes you do, the less
background acidification becomes an issue. But this gets tedious,
very quickly, so think about what you're trying to achieve
here: an easy hobby that involves nothing more than daily feeding
and water changes every week or two.>
I hope that doesn't sound like a stupid question. Or is this
something that I would need to add to my tank on a fairly regular
basis? (if I can find it - I suppose I can order it online
<Do read here:
There's a recipe for making your own Rift Valley Cichlid Salt
Mix for pennies a time. It's easy to do. For a regular
community tank -- as opposed to a Rift Valley cichlid aquarium --
you'd use a smaller dose than described there; try reducing
the amounts to one-fourth to one-third the amounts
I'm worried about this fish if he is reacting to water
problems and am so frustrated I can't find the salt you
mentioned. I noticed today that he was pale on about half of his
body, and then when I turned the light on, most of the rest of
his body went pale. I checked back later and he is dark as could
be....tried to take a picture when he was pale but he had
disappeared when I returned with the camera.
<Oh. For what it's worth, Plecs are quite tough fish, and
given good conditions, generally recover from stress
I'm sorry and feel stupid saying this - but I don't know
what 10-20 degrees dH or the equivalent you mentioned means.
<Simply being precise. The other way of saying this: on your
test kit, there'll be a scale of some sort, running from Soft
to Moderately Soft to Moderately Hard to Hard to Very Hard, or
words to that effect. For Mollies, the water MUST be Hard to Very
Hard. For community fish, Moderately Soft to Hard is generally
fine. In other words, Mollies only mix well with those community
fish tolerant of "Hard" water, i.e., things like
Platies and Rainbowfish, but not so much Rasboras or Cardinal
Tetras. You have to pick and choose tankmates for Mollies very
Possibly this is information on the comparison card for the
liquid test tube version of the tests (and not test strips)?
Aside from borrowing a friend's test tube testing kit for the
last test I did to get you accurate info, I haven't used
those for anything but ammonia (but plan to purchase a kit
Would this Maracyn two be the right medication?
<Either than, or regular Maracyn should work. They treat
different bacteria, on the average, people find trying Maracyn
first works best, and only use Maracyn 2 if that doesn't
work. But your own mileage may vary.>
This poor loach is now enduring a third treatment since this all
started, and although he seems to be doing okay, he still has
pink/red at the base of his side fins and a pinkish tone to his
gill area. He looked this way when I put him back in the main
tank and got sick again so I of course don't want to put him
back until he's 100%. It seems that his recovery has
plateaued and I don't know what to do about this. The Cory
cat seems to be responding well to treatment thus far, but still
looks red/pink and I assume he will have the same plateau.
okay, here is what I think the right sizes for you to see. The
dojo picture doesn't look all that clear, but anywhere where
it looks darker/pinkish is the pink that I am talking about that
isn't going away.
I am cut and pasting them into the email and I hope this
<Didn't. If all else fails, try some free image hosting
service such as Flickr, and include the link in your
Thanks so much for your time.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: a continuing problem with sick dojo loach, and now my emerald
green Cory cat has the same illness 9/25/09
A link to the pictures! what a smart idea - here it is.
<I think you're meant to send an invitation to view this
online album. As it is, I had to join Snapfish. Normally, we
don't have time to go through hoops for this sort of thing.
But it's a nice sunny morning here in England, so I joined
up. Anyway, your fish don't appear to be especially
"sick" as such, though the Corydoras looks a little
underweight (if you can see the belly, it's concave, which
isn't a good sign). My feeling is that these fish may have a
mild bacterial infection, but it's more than likely we're
talking about an environmental reaction. Variation in pH, a dirty
substrate, marginal water quality may all be issues. In
particular, take the time to review tank maintenance. Sand needs
to be kept clean, and the best way to ensure this is to check
there's a good flow of water along the bottom of the tank.
Use a turkey baster to pipette out detritus between water
changes. Feed your catfish and loaches their own food, ideally at
night, so that they're not subsisting on leftovers; a good
all-around food for both species would be Hikari Algae
Thanks again for your help. I have a few final questions
If my dojo loach continues to stay pinkish, what do I do? The two
fish have had 7 days of powder packet treatments of Maracyn-two
thus far. The instructions say to continue treatment until signs
of illness are gone.
This could be a while if ever and I can't imagine the
medicine is something good long term.
<I can't see anything obviously wrong with this Weather
Loach. They can appear a little pink when the light shines
through the thinner parts of their body, and if there's
something amiss with the environment, they may appear irritated.
But essentially these are hardy fish, provided they are
maintained at below 25 degrees C (77 F). The same for Corydoras,
and in fact I'd keep both species at the cooler end of the
range, 22-24 C being ideal.>
And, do you suppose this sickness came about more because of the
pH being below 7.5 or because there is some disease living in my
tank that I still need to deal with?
<pH itself is rarely something that causes sickness unless it
[a] fluctuates wildly within a few hours or [b] is outside the
tolerances of a particular species. Loaches and Corydoras are
fine between pH 6 to 8, so the value itself isn't an issue.
But if exposed to pH that varies a lot, that can stress them. One
key issue often overlooked is the toxicity of ammonia at
different pH levels. In the acidic range, ammonia is less toxic
than in the basic range, so if the pH goes from 6.5 to 7.5, while
the pH change itself might be harmless, the sudden increase in
toxicity of a small amount of ammonia in the system can cause
Can I treat the main tank with anything to make sure there
isn't anything lurking in there waiting to cause more
<Right now, I'd finish the cause of meds you're on,
and then concentrate on providing good, stable water
How long would you to treat these sick fish before giving up?
<They honestly don't look that sick to me. Perhaps
it's these photos?>
Until the hole in his head completely heals (how long does that
<Should heal within a few weeks, should conditions
Until he is no longer pink? Both? The loach has been sick/pink
for about six weeks now, poor guy.
<Are you sure it's simply not his normal colouration?
Unlike Finrot, the classic bacterial infection, the fins on this
fish are intact. If he had Finrot, I'd expect ragged
He doesn't look miserable now, at least, but I sure don't
want to keep him in the 10 gallon hospital tank forever. The last
time I thought he looked good to go and I put him back in the
main tank, he was sick within four days and back in the hospital
tank (and with a hole in his head appearing a few days after
I dropped some of the sand in a bowl of vinegar and saw no
reaction. I am hopeful then that it is not the substrate that
caused this problem and that I don't need to mess with
I have a hard time killing snails (or I should say I just
can't do it) and will need to look into this Assassin snail
if I go this route. Though I am picturing the slowest
predator/pray chase I've ever seen, ha ha.
<Prepare to be surprised! When the Assassin Snails kick into
gear, they're remarkably brisk.>
Sick Emerald Cory... Uncycled sys. env.
dis. -- 08/23/09
I'm new to this whole aquarium thing and looking for a bit of help.
I have a 25 gal. hex aquarium which is about a month old and still in
the cycling process. This tank was a freebie from a friend. I set the
tank up, filled it and let it run for a couple of days.
<Mmm... needs a few weeks...>
I wasn't sure if any of the bacteria had survived from when my
friend had it so I purchased 4 Platies to get the bio-filter going.
<... not a good method. Read here:
Tested the water every day and after a week the ammonia hadn't gone
up at all. Figured perhaps the platies weren't putting in enough of
a load so the following week I purchased 3 Emerald Cory Cats.
Initially all was fine. The ammonia level started going up in the tank
so I started doing 30-40% water changes about every other day and only
feeding a very small amount about once a day. The ammonia level has
hovered between .25 - .5 ppm
(I haven't been able to get it down to 0 yet and I figured that was
just because the bio-filter hasn't fully established yet.) A couple
of days ago I noticed that one of the Corys was just sitting on the
bottom, it's fins were kind of folded over and it appeared to be
having difficulty breathing. Whereas the other Corys were still their
iridescent green color, this one was very dark. It also doesn't
appear to have it's barbels anymore.
I expected it to not make it through the day (and at one point saw it
laying on it's side), but it's still hanging in there. I feel
really bad for it, but don't know what the problem is
<... you killed it through your ignorance>
or how to correct it. I'm also concerned the other Corys could be
impacted eventually. The other cats as well as the platies seem fine,
are actively feeding when I provide food and swimming normally around
the tank. From reading through some of the posts on your site I've
discovered that my tank is too deep for the Cory's biology (22
inches), but at this point I (and they) have to make the best of it.
Here are some details on my setup:
Size: 25 gal. Hex - a few decorations and artificial plants. The filter
hangs on the back of the tank and since the tank is so deep I bought an
airstone with the idea of improving bottom to top circulation.
Temp: 78-80 degrees
Substrate: small rounded gravel ~.5 cm
Nitrite: Safe - 0ppm
<Not for long>
Nitrate: Safe - 0ppm
Hardness: Soft - ~75ppm
Alkalinity: Moderate - ~80ppm
pH: Neutral - 7.0
The ammonia I test with a vial/water sample/etc, the other 5 I use a
test strip. I've been avoiding doing massive water changes to try
to get the ammonia to 0 because I figured I needed some ammonia in the
tank to get the bacteria colony going and since I bought what I
believed to be hardy fish, I figured they could take the slightly
elevated levels in the near-term.
I'd prefer to not lose any fish,
<... read re methods of establishing bio-cycling through the link
and linked files at top on it>
but I know that sometimes happens during the cycling process. I'm
just trying to make sure that the problem with the one Cory isn't
something that could pass to the other fish. Any insight you can
provide would be greatly appreciated.
<Read. Bob Fenner>
Re Sick Emerald Cory, DavidB input 8/24/09
Appreciate your quick response. Whatever "ignorance" I have
is partly a result of my newness to the hobby and my reading of The
Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums by David Boruchowitz who
supposedly has 6 decades of fishkeeping experience.
<He is a friend, associate... and known by me to be knowledgeable, a
His recommendation is to cycle the tank with some hardy species of
<Perhaps this is "old" information... This use/practice
was common many years back>
or to use the borrowed substrate method that is mentioned in the link
<Another, better avenue>
Unfortunately, none of my friends have established aquariums in order
to be able to borrow gravel or used media.
<... How about the local fish stores?>
I imagine I could possibly get some used media from a local fish
dealer, but given that most articles I've read say NOT to put the
water from a dealer into the tank to avoid introducing parasites,
<Akin to "not drinking the water" in foreign countries,
but eating food from plates washed with it... Buying livestock from LFS
and eschewing the use of their substrates for establishing
bio-geo-nutrient cycling is hypocritical. I have many
faults/shortcomings, but being a hypocrite is not one of these>
I find it odd that using media, gravel, etc. from said dealer would be
any less dangerous especially since I haven't been at this long
enough to know for sure who a good dealer is vs. a bad one.
It's interesting to see your comment that .25 - .5ppm of ammonia is
"deadly toxic" and that my Cory's barbels were
"burned" off. Most articles I've read (including the book
mentioned above) indicate that any ammonia isn't good but that the
level considered "bad" is hard to gauge since different
species respond differently and that you need to observe the fish for
signs of stress.
<Read on my friend>
Since the platies are doing well in my tank and the other Cory's
appear fine, i.e. no "burned" barbels, is it possible that
this one fish was already ill and in a weakened state?
<A matter of degree; but yes>
I also don't understand how I'm supposed to build up the
bacteria in the tank if I don't have at least some level of ammonia
for the bacteria to feed on.
<Please read further where you were referred... any source of
protein (e.g. food/s) can/will supply ammonia... the "amino
bond" in amino acids... that in complexity make up peptides,
polypeptides, proteins... Or even (though generally not recommended,
and def. not necessary) exogenous ammonia (NH4OH) can be
I've read some of the links that you provided in your response. The
fwestcycling.htm link appears to suggest a fishless cycling which at
this point is moot for me given that I have 6 fish currently in the
<Yes; tis too late for this system>
Some of the other links suggest using feeder goldfish to cycle the
tank, but the Boruchowitz book says to NEVER do that unless you're
planning to have a goldfish tank.
<I do agree>
The "Tips for Beginners" link doesn't really mention
cycling at all.
<I will send this note to DavidB (at TFH) with your very pertinent,
useful notes here... for consideration in revisions of his in-print
Anyway, it just seems that depending on the source of the information,
the recommendations and approaches can conflict or at the least differ.
I'll continue with my testing and water changes and hope for the
Thanks again for your reply.
<And you for your intelligent additional input. Bob Fenner>
Emerald Cory cats tankmates 7/2/09
It's me Brittney again! Sorry I write you guys so much but I have
so many questions and so many tanks. I'm looking to set up a 10 gal
tank with 3 Emerald Cory Cats, 3 Platies 2 Cherry Barbs and 5 Zebra
Danios. Do you think my tank will be over crowded?
<Oh my, yes. Emerald Cory Catfish are Brochis splendens, a robustly
proportioned catfish that has the build of a Corydoras on steroids. So
despite being a mere 8-10 cm (3-4 inches) in length when full grow,
these catfish are chunky and need a spacious and rather deep aquarium.
Something in the 180-litre (50 US gallon) range would be about right,
with a water depth upwards of 45 cm (18 inches) generally being
preferred. Whereas Corydoras inhabit shallow water, Brochis live in
deeper rivers, and rarely settle down properly in small, shallow tanks.
Personally, I wouldn't actually recommend ANY of your suggestions
for a 10 gallon tank, and if you haven't already bought the tank,
I'd implore you to pick up at least a "long" 20 gallon
tank instead. The price difference is trivial, and both tanks take
about the same amount of space; but "long" 20 gallon tanks
offer much more space for schooling fish to swim. "Deep" 20
gallon tanks are largely a waste of money, unless you don't plan to
keep many fish, and are more interested in growing tall plants. For
reasons to do with surface area to volume ratio, a "deep" 20
gallon tank keeps fewer fish safely than a "long" 20 gallon
tank, despite identical volumes.>
I plan to have an inch of sand and some smooth rocks as well as plenty
of plants. Please advise me on this, Wonderful Crew at Wet Web
<Do see here:
Thank you in advance
Mysterious Catfish Deaths (and brown algae) --
07/03/07 Hi crew, <Hello.> This is my first time writing to
you. I have been an avid reader of your pages for almost a year, and I
have gathered much information. I have also kept fish for quite a long
time, and I have never encountered these problems. <OK.> Firstly,
aquarium stats: 29 G glass bowfront, about 6 months old. Inhabitants
include 3 green Corys, 3 Oto, 1 medium angelfish, 4 various platies, 2
neon Rainbowfish. Moderately planted (a couple of swords, sparse java
moss, a couple java ferns, some floating elodea), 24 W T-5 lighting, no
CO2 or air pump, filter for 60 G (300GPH). Ammonium, Nitrites = 0,
Nitrates = 10 ppm. Substrate = Eco Complete. 1 piece of driftwood. pH =
8.x? (it is really high, and the tests have not been very accurate).
Water changes are 25 - 30% once a week (very regular), siphoning the
unplanted areas and under the driftwood and replacing with treated tap.
<The high pH is alarming. It may be an issue with your test kit.
Test kits designed for the "low end" around pH 5.5-7.5 tend
to be inaccurate at the "high end" around pH 7.5-9.0, and
vice versa. So, check that. Second, what's the pH of the water
straight out the tap? Your selection of fish wants a pH around 7.2-7.5,
but what matters more than pH is hardness, so you want to check that as
well. If you live in an area supplied with exceptionally hard water
(such as water from a limestone aquifer) you can easily have a pH
slightly above 8.0. Not ideal for things like tetras and angels, though
they can adapt.> Issues: Corys with degenerating barbels/fins. The
Corys (had 6 at first) were fine for the first few months. They grew
from baby size into adult size and were super active. They also had
nice fins and barbels. Then, java moss began growing everywhere, and
their barbels started deteriorating. Then a couple died. I thought it
might be the Java Moss collecting debris and making high local
nitrates. But I cleared out almost all of it and the Corys still seem
to be suffering from fin rot/barbel degeneration. I put in a new Cory
from QT a few weeks ago and it's barbels seemed to be
deteriorating! Then it died. Why is this? All the mid to top dwelling
fish (including the angel) are active and eating very well, and have
nice fins. Also, the Corys seem lethargic and hide under the driftwood
all day, only coming out to get food. <Almost certainly the water
quality at the bottom of the tank and especially in the substrate is
suboptimal. The reason the new Corydoras died was it couldn't adapt
to these conditions, whereas the old Corydoras have (to a degree)
adapted. Anyway, check the water circulation. Many filters do a good
job of moving water around the top of the aquarium but the water flow
at the bottom can be relatively poor. If the Java Moss is accumulating
silt, then that's a good clue that this might be the problem.
Adjust the filter, or add an airstone or two at the bottom of the tank
to improve water circulation.> Additionally, the Otos like to hang
out near the top of the tank. If I recall, they used to like hanging
out on the plants. But there seems to be something bothering them
because they hang near the surface and don't eat much algae. This
lead me to think there was something near the bottom that bothers them,
but I can't identify it. I do siphon the unplanted areas of the
bottom every time I do a water change. <Sounds as if there's a
lack of oxygen at the lower levels, again suggesting poor water flow.
Otocinclus are fishes of fast-flowing streams, and are exceptionally
sensitive to static water.> Is the Eco Complete doing something
strange to the fish? What could the culprit be? Usually fin rot is
associated with nitrates but I tested the water at the bottom of the
aquarium, and the nitrates were at 10 ppm! (same as the surface). <I
can't imagine the Eco Complete is the immediate problem. Are you
using under tank heating of any kind? When using deep, rich substrates,
under tank heating is recommended. Basically you thread a heater cable
through the substrate, and when this is warm, it sets up convection
currents that slowly circulates the water. Works very well and the
plants thrive, but it's a little more expensive to do than a
regular heater.> Finally, a there is a large amount of brown algae
infestation in my tank. It is covering all of my plants and the java
moss too, making it a furry brown carpet. To the best of my knowledge,
it doesn't seem like there should be a lot of algae. Is the
lighting causing this? I don't have a CO2 system, and it is not
convenient for me to install one, so I was wondering if there was any
other way to combat this problem. I don't mind the algae on the
glass, because I can scrape it off, but the algae on the plants is
what's bothering me. <Brown algae -- diatoms -- are almost
always a problem in [a] new aquaria and [b] tanks with insufficient
light. If your tank is more than a few months old, then the problem is
probably lack of light. Fish and snails have modest impact on brown
algae though they do eat some. Much better to boost the lighting
levels. For various reasons plants prevent algae from growing when they
are doing well. So make sure you have at least 2 Watts per gallon of
water, and that you are using the right type of light (i.e., a
plant-friendly one rather than a generic aquarium light).> Thanks
for your advice, Alex <Good luck, Neale>
Cory Problems cont'd 7/29/07 Hi Neale, <Alex,>
Thank you for answering my question last time (a few weeks ago). To
remind you, 36 G bowfront, 1 angelfish, 6 platies, 6 Corys, 2 Oto, 2
neon Rainbowfish, 0/0/10, moderately planted, Eco-Complete substrate.
My problem was that Corys were dying and their barbels were
degenerating, but I could not identify the reason as none of the other
fish were suffering. You suggested that I place a bubble wand near the
bottom of the tank so that there would be better circulation. I got a
14" bubble wand and set it up, and there seems to be a lot better
circulation. The Cory's seemed more active and happier, so I moved
a couple of Corys from the QT over to the main tank. <Circulation of
the water is important. But also how deep is the tank? Corydoras are
obligate air breathers, and they will literally drown in an aquarium
too deep for them. For the smaller species, around 30 cm is about
right. Anything over 45 cm is dodgy, in my opinion.> Well, 2 weeks
later, they are again showing signs of barbel degeneration. <Time to
clean and stir the substrate. When the barbels degenerate, that pretty
much means they have something Finrot-like nibbling away at the tissue.
Dirty gravel is the killer.> They also sometimes try to
"hover" just a centimeter or so above the substrate.
<Normal. Some Corydoras even swim in midwater.> So, I am thinking
there is something nasty in the substrate, but how can I get rid of it?
<Stir at each water change, and siphon out any detritus.> I
already suction the exposed portions of the gravel with every water
change. The catfish seem more active than before, but the barbel/slight
fin degeneration looks bad to me. Is it the substrate? I really love
these guys and don't want them to suffer anymore! <I'm not
sure. I've never used Eco-Complete substrate so can't comment
from experience. But if this was me, I'd be thinking about putting
a gravel tidy on top of the Eco-Complete substrate and then adding a
thin (1 cm or so) layer of fine gravel or dark lime-free sand.
Corydoras love sand, and will burrow through it, keeping it spotlessly
clean. You can also add some Malayan livebearing snails if you wanted,
as these do a good earthworm type thing burrowing through the sand
constantly. Plants can be stuck into the sand and their roots will go
through the gravel tidy. If required, you can cut holes in the gravel
tidy for plants that have robust root systems already. What this will
do is isolate the Eco-Complete substrate from the catfish, allowing the
plants to take advantage of the Eco-Complete substrate while the fish
can play with the sand.> Also on a side note, my smallest platy
(which is less than an inch long) seems to have suffered a couple of
bites out of her tail. It doesn't really look like fin rot and she
has no damage on her other fins. Do you think the angelfish took a
couple snaps out of her? <Probably, yes. Angels are opportunistic
predators and will attempt to eat small fish. Adult angels are able to
eat things up to the size of a neon tetra.> Thanks, Alex <Good
Gravel change for (Callichthyid) catfish? 1/10/06
I've never kept cats before, and recently acquired two smaller (one
~2", one ~1.5") Brochis splendens. Several sources recommend
using "soft" gravel to protect their barbs, and the tank I
have the Splendens (along with a small shoal of Danios who cycled the
tank for me) has what is probably inappropriate gravel - the cheap,
plastic-coated "Top Fin" brand aquarium gravel. I had some
laying around from a few tanks ago so I threw it in rather than have
nothing. My question is twofold: Firstly, what sort of gravel or
substrate do you recommend for use with cats, <With Callichthyids...
small (1/8" diameter or less nominal), roundish, natural
gravels... of chondritic, metamorphic origin... Most "natural
aquarium gravels" for freshwater, whether coated or not are of
this nature> and second, how do you reckon I ought to change it out
without stressing the fish too badly? It seems like scooping out the
fish into a temporary bucket full of tank water and doing it all at
once would be the best way. <Vacuuming all out with a large/r
diameter siphon works out best for me in most cases... even if I have
to "decant", replace the siphoned, settled water a few times
to get all the present gravel. for very large systems, dumping the tank
and its inhabitants and scooping out the gravel is easier. Thanks,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>